Most desperate groups are willing to pitch for free

I don’t understand Colum Lowe’s letter (DW 10 January). The more that free-pitching is viewed in hard business terms, the less sense it makes for groups and clients alike.

On the few occasions that I have been asked to pitch for free, it has nearly always involved too many groups chasing a project with too little in the way of fees attached to justify the total time and risk involved for those groups.

The real cost of the pitch borne by the groups can even outweigh the total project budget. Worse than this, clients wanting free pitches may refuse to divulge the number of consultancies involved or their ultimate budget for the project – making any informed business decision impossible.

From a client’s perspective, it is usually the most desperate groups that will agree to pitch for free, making it a counter-productive way of finding the best group for the job. An alternative to this would be for every group to build a free-pitching budget into its business plan. But then fees for work won would have to increase severalfold.

Also, I don’t see how an end to free-pitching would create an industry with no competition. Competition is healthy and groups should pitch against one another in terms of costs and credentials. But this should not involve any unpaid creative work.

It is a certainty in any free-pitch that the majority of the groups involved will lose everything they have invested in the process. Only if a group has a studio full of designers with nothing to do does free-pitching make any sense.

In terms directly relevant to Homebase, it would be like a customer asking a handful of DIY stores each to supply a different drill free of charge, so that they can decide which one they like. Only the supplier of the chosen drill gets paid and the other stores don’t even get their drills back so have no way of recouping their costs. Of course, the customer would promise not to use the other drills. And if you win the customer might even come to you for their other DIY supplies. How is this good business or good marketing?

The idea that a free-pitch is OK so long as you present work that has no ‘claimed value’ does not work for anyone. The client doesn’t get to see anything on which it can make a valuable judgement.

I hope that as more groups improve their business skills fewer will agree to free-pitch.

Robert Smith


London W1

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